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MSF welcomes release of WHO strategy to tackle snakebites

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Concrete steps need to be taken to scale up access to safe antivenoms that exist in the market and to further prioritise development of better tools against snakebite envenoming

The international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomes the release of the long-anticipated World Health Organisation (WHO) strategy on the prevention and control of snakebite envenoming, with the ambitious targets to cut in half the number of snakebite deaths and cases of disability by 2030. Governments and funding organisations must step up now and respond to snakebite with the urgency and attention this neglected public health crisis demands.

WHO’s strategy is rolled out by governments, concrete steps need to be taken to scale up access to safe antivenoms that already exist in the market, and to further prioritise the development of new and better tools against snakebite envenoming.

“We are cautiously optimistic that the WHO’s snakebite strategy could be a turning point in tackling this disease, and governments, donors and other stakeholders must not squander this opportunity, but instead provide concrete political and financial support to ensure its success. It is time for everyone to harness this momentum and stop unnecessary deaths and disabilities from snakebites once and for all.” said Julien Potet, Policy Advisor, Neglected Tropical Diseases, MSF Access Campaign.

“The toll that snakebite envenoming takes on people around the world truly represents a hidden epidemic. We are encouraged to see that WHO’s snakebite strategy emphasises empowering communities and strengthening health systems to reduce the global snakebite burden. The disease must be confronted in a holistic, patient-centred way, including through preventative health programmes at the community-level that can measurably reduce the risk of snakebite,” said Dr Gabriel Alcoba, Tropical Medicine Advisor, MSF.

“Many more lives could be saved if all snakebite victims had access to timely and appropriate care, including antivenoms. To ensure access to affordable, quality-assured antivenoms, the effectiveness of existing products must be urgently assessed, and additional funds must be pledged to develop an international mechanism to subsidise and guarantee a stable supply of antivenoms. Antivenoms must be available and free-of-charge to people affected by snakebite, for whom access is a matter of life or death,” further added Potet.

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